Friday, October 17, 2008

Fighting Fairly

Today I heard about a dispute in a friend's church and somehow it got me thinking about "fighting fair". I think too often we assume "an eye for an eye" or "turn about is fair play" is fairness. If someone yells, you can yell back--that's fair. But, in the last year, I've realized that fighting "fair" is fighting the way you wish the other person would fight. So, if you don't like people talking behind your back, you don't get to talk behind theirs--you have to address them directly. If you don't like avoidance, don't avoid. It isn't just "doing unto others as you would have them do unto you", though that definitely applies here, but it is also setting an example and allowing yourself to walk away clean. Fighting the way you wish the other person would fight gives you firm ground on which to stand. If you fight fire with fire, then when the smoke clears and you have a chance to actually address the issue, when you say, "but X burned me" the objective third party is going to say, "yeah, and you burned X." There's little recourse when you use the means you want to complain about. But if X burns you, and you choose to remain calm and act in the ways you wish X would, then when you actually address the issue, you can walk away knowing, at the very least, that you acted on the up and up.

I'm not trying to encourage fighting, but disputes happen, and conflict is not something to be avoided, it is a reality we need to deal with constructively. So, when conflict happens, though your instinct may be to retaliate with the same weapons (slander, gossip, avoidance, rejection, exclusion) that were used against you, remember fighting fair is not returning in kind, it is handling the situation in the ways you wish it had been handled from the beginning.

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